Ayn Rand’s lifelong passion for philosophy was rooted in her conviction that philosophy is the basic force shaping each of our lives and human history. After Atlas Shrugged, she turned to writing nonfiction, both to elaborate on the philosophy set forth in her novels and to use her philosophy, which she named Objectivism, to explain crucial cultural events and fight the negative trends she observed.
From 1962 until 1976, she published and wrote for three successive periodicals: The Objectivist Newsletter, The Objectivist and The Ayn Rand Letter.
Many of her most significant essays — later collected into books such as The Virtue of Selfishness and Philosophy: Who Needs It — were first published in her periodicals.
The Objectivist magazine was published from January 1966 to September 1971 (when it was replaced by a biweekly newsletter: The Ayn Rand Letter.) This 1120-page volume reproduces the entire contents of each issue.
— Ayn Rand, “Brief Summary,” The Objectivist, September 1971
What is striking about the articles in The Objectivist is the variety of topics addressed by Rand and the contributing writers under her editorial supervision: from theoretical essays on metaphysics and epistemology — to articles applying Objectivism to fields as diverse as psychology, history, education, science, politics and economics — to commentaries on concrete news events such as the 1969 moon landing. Numerous articles present Rand’s distinctive philosophy of art, and apply it by analyzing cultural trends in theater, film and literature.
While most of Rand’s articles have been reprinted elsewhere, many from her contributors have not. (The most substantial of Rand’s cultural commentaries not available anywhere else is her analysis of the 1968 presidential candidates.)
Also, aficionados of Rand’s philosophy will find it fascinating to peruse certain regular features of The Objectivist. Occasional editorials report on the spread of Objectivism in the culture. The “Objectivist Calendar” lists upcoming events such as lectures and TV and radio appearances by Rand and her associates. While such items are undoubtedly dated, they nevertheless offer a glimpse into the history of Objectivism as an intellectual movement.
One unique regular feature in The Objectivist was a series of excerpts “From the ‘Horror File,’” — quotations sent in by readers illustrating the often dreadful state of contemporary ideas and culture. Examples:
“Some of his [Marshall McLuhan’s] insights are so original that they evade immediate understanding; other paragraphs may forever evade explication. ‘Most clear writing is a sign that there is no exploration going on,’ he rationalizes. ‘Clear prose indicates the absence of thought.’” — The New York Times Magazine, January 29, 1967
“In most cases, there is a simple rule for doing the right thing — when in doubt, take the alternative that is less pleasing to your ego.” — Sydney J. Harris, “Strictly Personal,” Chicago Daily News, February 2, 1967
“Enactment of a supplemental Bill of Rights that will guarantee, among other things, the right to leisure and the right to be different . . . the right to sexual fulfillment, the right to health, the right to intimacy, the right to travel, the right to study and the right to altruism.” — Rocky Mountain News, June 24, 1966
Some of Rand’s most important philosophical works first appeared in her periodicals. Her monograph Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, for instance, which presents her groundbreaking theory of concepts, was first published in eight installments in The Objectivist (in the July 1966 through February 1967 issues).
The work is an “introduction” to Rand’s theory of knowledge because it focuses on one central issue in epistemology — the nature and validity of concepts — but not other issues such as the validity of the senses or the role of logic in human cognition. (These and other epistemological issues are treated in detail in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff.)
Aficionados of Rand’s ideas will find it fascinating to see this technical work as it appears in the monthly installments of Rand’s magazine, and how she makes use of her theory, such as in the essays on the philosophy of art.
Asked to name her favorites among her articles in The Objectivist, Ayn Rand listed her essay “Apollo 11” as one of three (the others were “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology” and “The Comprachicos”).
In “Apollo 11” Rand gives a first-hand account of the spacecraft’s 1969 liftoff, having been invited by NASA to attend the moon launch as a special guest.
Rand viewed the Apollo11 mission as a superlative achievement of science and technology: “an achievement of man in his capacity as a rational being — an achievement of reason, of logic, of mathematics, of total dedication to the absolutism of reality.”
“Apollo 11” discusses the philosophic meaning of the event and the opposite reactions to it by the general public and the intellectuals. Rand said that she loved the article “for its literary quality and its theme: in today’s context, it was my one opportunity to discuss a great event.”
Ayn Rand was deeply concerned about America’s educational system and the harmful influence of modern philosophy on the methods employed in the classroom. A supporter of Montessori education for young children, she was strongly critical of the Progressive school of education founded by philosopher John Dewey.
The Objectivist contains a number of articles and book reviews on various topics in education, from the propriety of accepting government scholarships to analyses of proper and improper educational methods. Some of these pieces are included in Rand’s later books, but others are unavailable elsewhere, including some exploring children’s developmental needs and the benefits of the Montessori method of education.
Rand’s most comprehensive treatment of education is her article “The Comprachicos,” an exposé of “the methods employed to destroy the mind.” She described the article as “my grimmest and most ‘humanitarian’ task: it may help, I hope, to save young minds and lives.”
Ayn Rand had a distinctive philosophy of art — a unique view of what art is and why it is so crucially important to human life. Her book The Romantic Manifesto brings together her major essays on esthetics, most of which were originally published in The Objectivist.
But also published in The Objectivist, and unavailable elsewhere, are a number of articles and reviews, by Rand and the contributing writers under her editorial supervision, that apply the Objectivist esthetics to the analysis of specific artists or trends in the arts.
These pieces deal with work in wide-ranging fields of art: from painting and sculpture, to music and dance, to theater, literature and film. One notable essay, for instance, is “Metaphysics in Marble” by art historian Mary Ann Sures, which examines various styles of sculpture through history to explain how sculpture expresses what Rand called “metaphysical value-judgments.” Another highlight is Rand’s piece on a contemporary painter she admired, Capuletti.
The Objectivist featured reviews of books it judged to be of special interest to its readership. Rand’s goal was to help her readers “acquire relevant knowledge.” As she explained in regard to capitalism: “it is not enough to be for free enterprise on moral grounds. You must also know the historical case for it, and be able to answer the questions being raised about it today.”
Accordingly, the magazine reviewed books on history (e.g., works celebrating industrialization in nineteen-century America and exposing atrocities under Soviet Communism), on economics (e.g., works on the “war on poverty” and on the federal “urban renewal” program), and on education (e.g., works about the Montessori method and about the state of the American university).
These reviews also served to support praiseworthy work of other intellectuals by helping it find an audience.